Welcome back to the Daily Shot, where I’m just an op-ed guy and it sometimes hurts to admit it. Time for some recommended reading, and I’m going to give you my choices for the Magic writers you should always read: The eight”real” writers.
Op-ed, by the way, stands for opinion/editorial, which is about all I can do. There is nothing wrong with that, but I’m not really a Magic”journalist,” and I don’t have anything tangible to set my musings apart from anyone else’s. Guys like me have to survive on talent or, in my case, by being prolific. Am I a”Magic writer”? Or maybe a”Magic journalist”? No. I have no sources, I have no exclusives. I’m no journalist, though I wouldn’t mind being one should the opportunity arise.
Calling myself a Magic journalist would be delusions of grandeur. I guess I could call myself a Magic writer, though I have nothing special to work with. Gotta make do with whatever I think up for the day… And by extension, so do you.
Then there’s the strategy columnists… But anyone can do that, too. Some are just better at it than others.
Say you sit down to read an article. What, besides the actual quality of the writing, sets an article apart from every other mental McNugget circulating the bowl of the vast crapper that is the Internet? In my opinion, it’s:
- Exclusive insider info (Magic-related)
- Exclusive insider info (Pro-Tour related)
The guys who do Sideboard coverage are Magic journalists. People with inside information that other Magic writers can only dream of having, those guys have got something special. The Pros who write… They’ve got the less-successful players on the edge of their seats, hoping to catch a morsel of that sweet, sweet formula for victory. We other hacks are just playing an eternal game of catch-up.
That said, here are eight guys you should read. Read as many of them as you can, and you’ll be taking in the best that Internet Magic writing has to offer. No one from StarCity is on here, by the way… Because StarCity is the king of the opinion/editorial/strategy sites, and though we do it better than anyone else, the fact is that anyone can do it. What I’m listing here are the other guys you absolutely should not do without; not if you call yourself a fan of the game, and of the written word.
1. Randy Buehler (www.wizards.com/sideboard, www.MagicTheGathering.com)
Team CMU alumnus Randy Buehler column “Latest Developments” has got stuff you can’t find anywhere else. People might make Randy the target of a lot of ire, since he’s the most public member of the design team that created cards like Wild Mongrel while simultaneously allowing Monoblack Control to exist in block, but the simple fact is that his column is great stuff, and it gives you a window into R&D’s soul.
Randy also does coverage at major events for the Sideboard, and (as he told us in his most recent column), he’s the voice behind the cameras when it comes down the finals of a major event.
2. Mark Rosewater (www.MagicTheGathering.com)
Mark Rosewater goes hand-in-hand with Randy Buehler. They’re both part of the design process, they’re both good writers (Mark, of course, used to write for the Roseanne show… I wonder if he was involved in the episode with TV’s first sitcom lesbian kiss?), and as a result they both have something unique to offer that I can’t touch: The inside view.
I can write about how I won FNM last week – but so what? A hundred other clowns can do that. Can I write about how I designed Mirage? Uh, that’d be a”no.” Stories about how Kyscu Drake was named are Rosewater’s department.
Actually, the whole Magicthegathering.com site is stellar. They’ve got a bunch of op-ed guys I don’t read (unless they’re previewing a new card, in which case they have their bloodthirsty writing hooks into what they call a scoop, then I read) and then there’s Rosewater, Buehler, and…
3. Aaron Forsythe (www.wizards.com/sideboard, www.MagicTheGathering.com)
When I read coverage of a draft, or Team Rochester, I hope it’s written by Forsythe. One of the few writers who can claim to be a legit Magic journalist, he is the content editor of the aforementioned MTG.com. Aaron Forsythe does it all. He’s the guy who puts up the”Selecting 8th Edition” polls. He’s the guy who is covering the finals at the Magic World Championships.
Do you think they’d let”The Daily Shot” host an edition of”Selecting 8th Edition”? Yeah, that’d happen…as soon as pigs fly.
Hey, I tried. Anyhow, if you’re not reading Forsythe, you’re missing something.
4. Josh Bennett (www.wizards.com/sideboard)
Josh, who used to write for StarCity as OneManCrowd before he quit playing the game, is pretty much the roving reporter of Magic. He does coverage of almost every major event in the U.S. and outside of it, with an objective eye, and he does it well. Josh used to be an opinion/editorial writer – but now he’s moved on, and up, to bigger and better things.
I saw him at Canadian Nationals, where he covered my feature match (and was nice enough to mention the then-burgeoning”Daily Shot”), and I asked him if he still played often. He told me he”didn’t Magic much anymore”, and I nodded in understanding. Then it hit me – he writes about the game, he covers the game, as it were, and that’s all he does.
Josh Bennett isn’t someone you’ll see on the front page of StarCity, whining about something – that’d be me. No, Josh works in the background… And yet he’s probably 100x more legitimate than I’ll ever be.
Bottom line: If you don’t read Bennett, that means you don’t read the Sideboard, and if you don’t read the Sideboard, you’ve got it all wrong, grasshopper. Study and grow strong. You know who said it. It’s still true.
5. Zvi Mowshowitz (www.brainburst.com, www.wizards.com/sideboard)
Zvi is the quintessential”pro who writes”, and he’s got inside info about testing, the Pro Tour, and Magic that I’d sell my left arm to get. Or other appendage. Do you realize that every day I’m stuck thinking up a new crock of bull puckey to shovel out in this column, when he can just remember what he did last week with whatever team he was on, write about that, and wind up with more to offer?
This man has written for pretty much every site known to man at one time or another, with the exception of StarCity (d’oh!), and even did everyone the favor of archiving himself at his website, which may or may not be still running. He previews new cards and sets on The Sideboard. Plus, he’s always had stories to relate that no one else could really touch.
Did you know, for example, that R&D phoned Zvi and told him that they needed a consistent second-turn kill to ban Bargain, one that he could demonstrate, so he went ahead and did it, sent them the deck, and it ended up banned? When the man is on, even I am spellbound – and I’m not lying when I say that other writers are a writer’s toughest critics.
Matt Groening, creator of the Simpsons, postulated (in”The Big Book Of Hell”) that the best way to annoy one artist (of any kind) was to be another artist. Zvi doesn’t annoy me, though – when he’s at his best, he captivates me.
Too bad I haven’t read him in half a year because I refuse to shell out money to Brainburst. It’s not a moral stand. I’m just too cheap.
By the way, I liked”My Fires.” What was the problem with that? Are people too lazy to read or something?
6. Gary Wise (www.wizards.com/sideboard)
Gary gets to do Limited Reviews for the Sideboard, and they post his editorials and his tournament reports. Gary, like Zvi, has the inside scoop. If you want to see just how good Gary can be, and just how unique his offerings can be, read “The Long Road Up,” a tournament report about how he won his Team PT, still archived on the Sideboard. I promise you that it’s time well spent.
Gary also does card previews and match coverage for the Sideboard, and obviously has a solid link to Wizards. Not every shmoe gets to do that. Does Wizards give a rat’s ass about who I think is going to win Worlds?
Gary pulls that editorial off, though. Love him or hate him, you have to read him because he’s got the connections, his work is on the inside edge, and if you don’t read him, you might miss something important. On top of that, the man has got talent. Go back and read everything he has ever written for the Sideboard, when you have the time. Don’t complain because you’ve heard from someone on TA.com that he sucks, or because you think it’ll be boring. Just do it. Even if he does suck (and it’s very debatable – I personally don’t think so, though I’ve never met him), it’s worth your time.
7. Mike Flores (www.wizards.com/sideboard)
Mike used to be all over the place with tournament reports, Sideboard work, you name it. He’s been pretty silent of late. Still, for tournament reports there’s no one better, and the man can tell stories about other Pros that you won’t find in”The Daily Shot” – or anywhere else, for that matter.
Where does Mike write now? No idea. I assume he’ll show up on the Sideboard sometime. Or maybe he’s gone from Magic, and thus, from writing about it. (I’m pretty sure he’s off the train).
He still deserves a mention. If you see a BPFlores article or report, you read it. It’s like seeing a nice quarter-pounder and eating it. The burger takes care of the stomach and Flores takes care of the mind.
By the way, if you think Wakefield was a good columnist and report writer, Flores destroys Wakefield. When Mike is in a writing groove, I feel like I should be wearing an armband that says”WWFD?” Most of his best stuff can be found via the wayback machine, on the Dojo, but there’s a good amount of it in the Sideboard archives, as well.
8. Matt Vienneau (www.wizards.com/sideboard)
Matt doesn’t write too much anymore, but he has an amazing piece you should read in the Sideboard archives – it’s called “Matt Vienneau’s Most Costly Mistakes.” If you want credentials, he’s won a couple of limited Grand Prixs… But once I’d read him a few times, I didn’t care what he’d won – I was hooked.
Time to hit the Wayback Machine again, and sift through the Dojo archives. Matt Vienneau has offered, for a long time, something that no other columnist or report writer could match… He gives you a real slice of what it’s like to be at a major event and complain about everything.
You will laugh your ass off reading a report by Matt Vienneau, even if it’s for an event that happened four years ago. If nothing else, it will open your eyes to how much better-run things are now. Find every word by Matt that you can, and go nuts.
And don’t trust Eric Tam. Crime doesn’t pay. Seriously, though – I can’t touch this guy. Give yourself a real treat and look him up. It’s like reading “Magic: The Gathering’s Greatest Bloopers.”
A quick aside, speaking of bloopers: I got a bunch of mail from people taking me to task for saying”I made no mistakes” a bunch of times in my last (extremely grouchy) article.
Apparently I can make mistakes and not know it. They tell me that’s how most mistakes happen. Of course I agree with that idea, but this time I’m not buying it, and here’s why. Sometimes, playing Magic is not rocket science. You tell me that I shouldn’t assume I made no mistakes, but let me tell you for sure…
I made no mistakes.
Do you think I’m that bad? If you were telling a newbie the same thing, I’d accept it, because he can screw up with any deck and not know it. He just doesn’t play enough. Me, I know how the matchups work and I know what to do. I play out my dudes and hope the other guy doesn’t have the nuts draw.
I know what to get with Quiet Speculation depending on what I’m up against. I know whether or not to play more creatures or a Sacrament on turn 3 depending on the opposing deck and the board position. It’s tough to believe, and maybe it sounds like I am being presumptuous, but this isn’t Limited or something nitpicky like a ‘Tog mirror, where I have to decide whether or not to counter every spell.
It’s WW/u against Monoblack and a couple of beatdown decks, and all I could do was play out my dudes, hold back for Envelop against Black if I had it (I never did), Speculate for what I was supposed to, and either win or lose.
You want to say that I didn’t choose the right deck, fine. You want to say I had the wrong sideboard cards that day, fine.
But I didn’t screw up, I didn’t mis-sideboard, and every decision was so obvious that it was like a shot with a sledgehammer. I never even had anything remotely tough, like playing Tireless Tribe (which can live through Mutilate) after Spurnmage Advocate (which might soak up the Blood or Edict). That never came up, nor did any number of other stumpers, all of which I like to think I wouldn’t have screwed up anyhow.
It was paint-by-numbers Magic. No situations where it was life or death whether or not to keep Glory mana open or cast more guys. No situations where the sideboarding was even remotely hard to figure out. No situations where I had to make a tough call that would have a huge effect on the game. I said it then and I’ll say it now…
I made no mistakes.
You may not believe me, but it’s true.
It’s good to look back on your play, to be sure, but you can’t always assume that you probably screwed up somewhere. If you triple-mulligan and get wrecked in Limited when he comes out with third-turn Teachings and you never play a land, it’s a safe bet you lost despite technically perfect play. And is it that tough to beat a Confinement deck when you’re playing Upheaval/Infestation in block? If you crush the guy and say “I played perfectly,” and then get told “You probably made some mistakes”, do you really believe it? I wouldn’t.
Sometimes you do play perfectly. I did, and went 2-3. It’s that simple. Thanks for the mail, guys (I know, you were probably trying to keep my ego in check, right?), but when I say I made no mistakes, I mean just that. In every match, I kept my opponent’s deck in the back of my mind, played my creatures in the right order, declared the right attackers and blockers, anticipated all the right cards (and yes, they came) according to the opposing decktype, sideboarded correctly, and I ended up 2-3. I never overextended against Black, never played it too cautiously.
Anyhow, it’s not important… The bottom line is that I’ve been raking myself over the coals for bad play often enough of late, and I won’t do it again when I didn’t play poorly. That’d just be hell on the psyche.
This one goes out to self-doubt.
Back in the saddle. See you tomorrow.
P.S.: Apologies to all the great opinion/editorial/strategy writers out there. I was looking to highlight a whole different class of scribe, so don’t feel excluded from the list. It was deliberate.